Oh My, What Big Teeth You Have!
Many pocket pets have teeth that never stop growing! All rodents and rabbits have continuously growing teeth. “Rodent” actually comes from the Latin word “to gnaw,” a nod to the constant chewing that helps keep teeth from becoming overgrown. While rodents and rabbits have continuously growing teeth, which teeth continuously grow varies from species to species. The guinea pig has continuously growing incisors (the sharp blade like teeth in the front of the mouth) and molars (the square grinding teeth in the back of the mouth). Mice, however, only have continuously growing incisors.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters all are born with only one set of teeth, unlike humans, cats, and dogs. These teeth often have open roots which allow for the continuous growth of enamel. Because of this a broken tooth will regrow, and regrow quite quickly.
Teeth can break for a variety of reasons, though it is often from trauma to the mouth. Our guinea pig broke off his upper incisors from aggressive bar chewing a few days after adoption. It was only a few weeks later that we realized his top teeth were tiny nubs. But they regrew over the course of a month. He broke his teeth above the gum line, causing no damage to the jaw or root. If damage to the jaw or root occurs, the tooth might never grow back.
If your pocket pet has a broken tooth, a first sign will be difficulty eating objects like pellets which require front of mouth manipulation. They may also have difficulty with hard objects like carrots, or items like lettuce that require nipping and tearing. If your pet displays these signs and is missing a tooth, Critical Care for Herbivores should be either syringed or spoon-fed.
Rodents and rabbits need to continuously chew even if they are missing a tooth. The other teeth remaining in the mouth will continue to grow and if not worn down daily can cause dental problems.
We spoon-feed critical care as it allows back of the mouth processing to wear down molars. Cutting carrots or lettuce into tiny mouth sized pieces is also helpful. Rodent teeth grow very fast but it is always a good idea to have your pet checked out by a vet just to make sure teeth are aligning properly and there isn’t other dental disease like an abscess hiding in the back of the mouth.
A diet with plenty of Timothy hay and providing wooden chewing toys or chew sticks is important to keeping pocket pet teeth the proper length.